Don King the legendary promoter

By Mauricio Sulaimán
Son of José Sulaimán / President of the WBC

This Saturday, January 29th, Don King returns to the boxing promotion scene, staging a major card in his home state of Ohio.

The main event stars WBC cruiserweight champion, Ilunga Makabu, from the Congo, in a mandatory title defense against the official challenger Thibiso Mchunu of South Africa. The winner of this fight is contemplated as Saul Canelo Álvarez’s next opponent, as requested by his manager, Eddy Reynoso, during The WBC annual convention.

This column is dedicated to this great promoter. Don King is a living legend and quite a personality; he is even more famous and popular than most boxers today.

If he enters a restaurant, in any country in the world, everyone is magnetized. The photos and autographs are incessant.

This past August 20, he turned 90, and his health is magnificent, but it is a fact that his activity as a promoter has decreased in recent years; therefore, he`s holding a huge event this coming Saturday with great enthusiasm and passion.

Don King is a winner. One of the largest and most successful sports and entertainment promoters in history; however, nothing was easy, nobody gave him anything. He was born in a state where racism was a terrible reality, he always had to overcome all kinds of obstacles.

In his youth, he worked with his wife Henrieta, who ran an underground gambling system in Cleveland, and he was in charge of collecting arrears. One day, when carrying out one of them, there was a problem and one of the individuals died after a fall.

Don King was sentenced to six years in prison. He served half the time for good behavior, but he took advantage of each of the days he spent locked up, because he cultivated himself and studied a technical career, besides reading countless books. Upon leaving, he found the opportunity to return to society in a positive way, by promoting a boxing event for charity, with the purpose of saving a hospital, which the government had decided to close. Who fought at that time? Muhammad Ali. That day, King realized that boxing was big business, and his career as a promoter began big time.

Don King has several records, including selling out the Azteca Stadium with more than 136,000 fans when Julio Cesar Chavez beat Greg Haugen in 1993. He perfected the concept of “promoter”; he created dynamics for the world to find out about his events, such as giving an attractive name to the card in turn, making it a great tradition.

• The Rumble in the Jungle (Ali vs. Foreman, Kinshasa, Congo, 1974).
• The Thrilla in Manila (Ali vs. Frazier, III, Manila, Philippines, 1976).
• Thunder vs. Lightning (Chávez vs. Taylor, Las Vegas, EU, 1990).
• The last Hurah (Holmes vs. Ali, Las Vegas, EU, 1980).
• Aces Four of a kind (four world titles, CDMX, 1993).

Don King has paid more than a million dollars to more than 100 fighters and promoted the careers of Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Holmes, Tyson, Durán, Chávez, Sánchez, Macho Camacho, Finito López and Chiquita González, among other ring greats.

The photographic collection of this extraordinary character, considering that his years of great activity were before the famous selfies, cell phones or social networks, is very impressive. Official visits, with all the US Presidents of the last decades, with many leaders and heads of state, personalities, artists and athletes; in short, Don King was a tireless globetrotter.

One of the big deals was to promote Michael Jackson’s tour, to become the world’s top singer, and Thriller, the best-selling album in history.

During the 80s and 90s, he promoted boxing shows in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tokyo, CDMX, Puebla, Monterrey and England.

The ringside was packed with Hollywood stars: Jack Nicholson, Bo Derek, Al Pacino, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Heather Thomas and, of course, Michael Jackson, with his father and brothers.

King is back, the King has returned; he is happy and excited to promote his show, even though he did not have the support of any television station and will be doing his PPV under his platform. A feature worth seeing, on Good luck Don!

Did you know…?

The year of 1931 will be remembered as a special year; three of the most important figures in world of boxing were born: American promoters Bob Arum and Don King; also, the Mexican, my dear father, José Sulaimán.

Today anecdote

Don King visited our home countless times. My first memory of boxing is precisely running down the stairs, because I had heard a very strange sound, and it was him, laughing in the living room, along with Ali and my dad.

Don is a great guzzler and he loves my mom’s cooking. He always went straight to sit down to eat whatever was on the stove.

On one occasion he arrived with Don José and they went straight to the living room; My mom came out to say hello and saw that he was exhausted, and when she wanted to get up to greet her, she didn’t let him, she leaned over, hugged him and gave him a kiss, but when she got up, my mom saw how Don King’s hair was electrifying and spongy like never before; she found it very easy to press it down, to see how it immediately resumed its place, not believing what my mom had done, my dad exclaimed:

“What a barbarity, Martha! how dare you do that?! Don doesn’t let anyone touch his hair!”

I appreciate your feedback at [email protected]

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  • Who wrote this article? Sounds like it was written for a biblical figure. A disastrous ppv is being made out to be Ali vs Frazier

    • Pretty sure we will soon be reading about how Jose Sr. walked on water and will be returning some day.

  • I really hope Don King is writing his autobiography.Love or hate him he is one of the most colorful characters in the sport.

  • “One day, when carrying out one of them, there was a problem and one of the individuals died after a fall.”
    – I know, he slipped on a banana……
    – Sounds like it was written by a lawyer.

  • Very nice write-up from Sulaimán giving King his flowers. people enjoy bad mouthing DK is if you really cared about Tyson not getting a few extra million dollars.
    If you dont respect what DK has done for the sport then quite frankly you dont know $hit about Boxing. King made Boxing what it was, now your stuck complaining about what it is. How is your favorite promoter doing now?

  • What a whitewash.King had the WBC in his pocket for years.Sure he raised boxing’s profile but short changed many boxers.That is a fact.

  • Wonder how many millions he’s ripping from the fighters of the card… He’s more corrupted then the Mexican government

  • There’s no question that Don King was the greatest boxing promoter in history. However, he did so at the expense of his fighters and business partners. To be clear Sam Garret did not die as a result from a fall. He died because DK delivered a vicious stomp to the head in front of a cop that could not be bought.

  • Love him or hate him, you must respect him. He is without a doubt the GREATEST OF ALL TIME. Just think about all the legendary fights he put on and all the legendary boxers he promoted. From the 1970s until 2022, still going strong (50 years promoting). Thank you DON KING for all the great fights you brought to the fans in the last 50 years. LONG LIVE THE KING!!

  • Jose S. and Don King worked hand inhand for many years…we will never forget Buster Douglas vs Tyson fight,those two DENIED that BD was the NEW CHAMPION!!!! Absolute disgusting behaviour.

  • Don King wtf?, isnt he the guy that murdered a young man while he was a numbers man and payed off the authorities to cancel the charge.
    Check it out. Get the facts

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